Trainer John Gosden reported he will walk the Ascot course on Saturday morning before deciding whether his dual Ascot Gold Cup winner Stradivarius will take his chance in the Long Distance Cup on Champions Day. The five-year-old won the corresponding race on soft ground 12 months ago and I would be surprised if connections decided to bypass the race. He is currently 4/6 at BetVictor to extend his winning sequence to 11 at the weekend with stablemate Royal Line 5s although he is stepping up to two-miles for the first time.
Nottingham must pass an 8.00am inspection today if their card is to get the green light. With significant rain forecast overnight the Colwick Park meeting is best avoided as we look at today’s racing.
The ground was given as good to soft on Tuesday morning for today’s Wetherby card with the chance of further light rain on the day of the race. The 2m 4f Novices’ Chase is worth the admission money alone and sees the Novice Chase debut of Sam Spinner who bounced back to his best when runner up in the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival back in March. This trip is on the sharp side for the 7-y-old, but the stable had a winner at Hexham over the weekend and Jedd O’Keefe’s stable star would be giving lumps of weight away if this were a hurdle.
Beakstown (2.55) is rated 24lbs inferior to the likely favourite over timber, but he has the scope to jump a fence, has an excellent record fresh and was a Grade 2 Novice Hurdle winner over 2m 5f at Warwick back in January. Ruth Jefferson’s Return Ticket is another exciting prospect for novice chases this winter and he is another to keep on the right side of going forward.
Dan Skelton also saddles West Cork (3.30) in the Novices’ Hurdle over two-and-a-half-miles and this winning Irish pointer makes his debut under rules. Connections suggested they might run the 5-y-old in a Bumper this autumn, but that plan has been shelved and he goes straight over timber. The top-weight Jatiluwih has won three hurdles but must carry 18lbs worth of penalties for those successes. Do note a market move for Young Bull who is better than he showed on his hurdles debut at Carlisle.
The Bobby Renton is the feature race and it is a terrific renewal of this prestigious northern handicap chase. All nine who go to post can be given a realistic chance and the ability to get the trip will be vital given there is plenty of pace in the race. Slanelough and Crivehill are on the shortlist, but I am convinced there is more to come from Sky Pirate (4.00) and hope this trip on decent ground will be enough of a test for Jonjo O’Neill’ s six-year-old who was campaigned over further last season.
The 2m Chase is another absolute belter of a race and Ecu De La Noverie must go close for David Maxwell but I am going to take a chance on Sir Egbert (5.05) who went off far too quickly under Richard Johnson at Sandown last time. The horse had sweated up badly pre-race and had bled from the nose during the race so I feel you can put a line through the run.
Antunes (5.35) ran poorly first time out last season but I hope there is more to come from Dan Skelton’s five-year-old this campaign and he gets the vote in the finale in what promises to be a most informative card.
In the Buck House Novice Chase at Punchestown this afternoon I hope to see BetVictor brand ambassador Rachel Blackmore score on Jan Maat (3.45) for Henry de Bromhead. The selection has finished behind Wicklow Brave in his last couple of starts and Willie Mullins’ 9-y-old runs in the American Grand National on Saturday evening.
Mullins brought True Self across the Irish Sea to land the listed 1m 6f race at Bath for fillies and mares 12 months ago and he can double it courtesy of Diamond Hill (3.20) who has won her last three over both codes including a listed success at Galway last time for which she is penalised 5lbs.
The American bred Magic J (6.55) drops back to the minimum trip having been too keen when fading close home over 6f coming back from a break at Newcastle last time. The 3-y-old is bred to appreciate tonight’s surface and he gets the vote on his handicap debut. He may not be a colt for much longer if he doesn’t run a big race this evening.